From housewife to a democracy icon

Detained for 15 of the past 21 years, the 65-year-old pro-democracy leader was freed on Saturday after her latest period of house arrest expired. She immediately told thousands of cheering supporters to work for unity in the army-run country.

“There is a time to be quiet and a time to talk. People must work in unison. Only then can we achieve our goal,” Suu Kyi told supporters at the gates of her lakeside compound.
Yet despite her steely determination in confronting the generals, the former Burma has moved no closer to democracy after 48 years of military rule, holding an election on Sunday that the junta’s party won easily.

Slightly built and soft-spoken, she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and plays a crucial role in keeping world attention on Myanmar’s military junta and its human rights record.
Known simply as “The Lady” by millions of her countrymen, she refuses to give up on the resource-rich country. “For me, real freedom is freedom from fear and unless you can live free from fear you cannot live a dignified human life,” she once said. Her National League for Democracy won the last elections in 1990 by a landslide, but has never been allowed to govern. After deciding not to contest Sunday’s election, her party was disbanded by the junta.

She was due to be released on May 27 last year. That changed when an American intruder swam to her lakeside home just weeks before she was to be freed, claiming God had sent him to warn her she would be the target of an assassination plot.

She was sentenced to house arrest the following August for allowing the intruder, John Yettaw, to stay two nights, which was deemed to be an infringement of security laws.
She was last freed in May 2002 and immediately travelled the country to meet supporters, drawing huge crowds.

Then, on May 30, 2003, Suu Kyi and her convoy were ambushed and attacked by government-affiliated thugs. The military blamed the clashes on Suu Kyi and placed her under “protective custody” at a secret location, sparking outrage and sanctions from the West. Since a surgery in 2003, she has been confined to her home on Yangon’s University Avenue, a prisoner in all but name, without the use of a telephone and with her visitors restricted.

Her struggles

* Born in Rangoon (now Yangon) in June 1945, Suu Kyi is the daughter of General Aung San, an independence hero assassinated in 1947.

* Studied politics in New Delhi, and philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University. In 1972, she married British academic Michael Aris. They have two sons —
Alexander and Kim.

* Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, she has been in prison or under house arrest off and on for 15 years.

* Her husband died in Britain in 1999. She declined an offer from the junta to go to his funeral, fearing she would not be allowed back if she left.

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